7 Best Blogs for Entrepreneurs: Start Business, Grow Professionally, or Change Your Life
Shane Parrish, Neil Patel, Seth Godin… If these names don’t ring a bell, then this article might feel like a good starting point to learn something new from these and others featured in this article.
Seth Godin is the author of 19 books, most of which have become true bestsellers. Seth is perhaps best known for Purple Cow, The Bootstrapper’s Bible, Unleashing the Ideavirus, and the Dip; however, some of you might know him for his other marketing and leadership books. Seth is a really well-known, established, and acclaimed marketer of all time, he’s an inductee to the Marketing Hall of Fame, member of the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, and the Guerrilla Marketing Hall of Fame. Besides his writing and speaking, Seth is a founder and CEO of Squidoo.com, he also blogs almost daily at https://seths.blog/, the most popular marketing blog in the world. Before, Seth was the Vice President of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!, a job he got after selling his pioneering 1990s online startup, Yoyodyne. In 2015, Seth started altMBA, a life-changing 30-day workshop on leadership and management. Students from more than 45 countries have participated in the course by 2018. And in case you’re wondering, these attendees come from various backgrounds, including those in management in large corporations, like Nike, Microsoft, PwC, Coca-Cola, etc.
Since we’re featuring Seth’s blog here, let’s dive into it. Among his Top 100 stories on the blog, there are features on branding, business development, business plans, differences between hard and long work, ramblings on high school and education in general, advice for writers, and, of course, an ample number of marketing tips.
Let’s look at his blog post on permission marketing, as an example. Seth talks about the phenomenon of permission marketing as a privilege, not a birthright, to deliver things people actually need. The problem with today’s marketing is that marketers now think that whatever algorithm you have for the consumer, is right for the consumer, without ever reaching out to the latter and actually asking for his permission. Also, in the modern world, attention is one of the greatest and precious resources, which is very hard to get and very easy to lose. So the aim of a permission marketing is to be genuinely interested in the consumer, grasp their attention and hold it as the very important asset. Moreover, just because you have someone’s email doesn’t mean you have their permission to send that spam email, or that you put that GDPR policies and disclosures on your site, still, there’s not enough permission. Seth writes, that “Real permission works like this: if you stop showing up, people complain, they ask where you went.” I think this is a fantastic reminder of how marketing can be compassionate and non-intrusive. One of the best acts of permission is a subscription; partly because people see you writing or delivering on your promises and they want to hear more of you, so they are willingly submitting their information for you to act upon it. The key here is that you make a promise of delivering x, y, and z variables and deliver exactly those, nothing more, nothing less because people have not yet given you permission to do so.
Honestly, having read through a number of Seth’s posts, I subscribed. Because part of what he’s saying is not about marketing per se, but rather — philosophy, existentialism even, life.
Mixery is Andrew Warner’s ambitious project that kickstarted thanks to Neil Patel, whom we’ll talk about in a moment. Mixergy is a place where successful people teach anyone who’s willing to learn and create something on their own. It all started when Warner learned the art of interviewing and, ultimately, asking the right questions to the right people. He also discovered that people actually liked to hear successful people’s stories, and that was exactly why he created his business around it. As Warner puts it, Mixergy’s mission is to give people an alternative to the know-it-all gurus, because, he argues, that none of the people actually knows it all, but you can still learn from other people’s experiences and expertise, from something they surely know very well. Also, Warner notes, that it’s important for any business or for any startup to have a mission, a clear vision, rather than a selling product or an idea. You need to have a calling, a lust for life and achievement, as opposed to just owning a business.
Mixergy has interviews, courses, and collections sections (handpicked best interviews and courses); over the years Warner has interviewed over 1,500 entrepreneurs, including the founders of Pixar, Groupon, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, etc.
What I was particularly interested in was Jimmy Wales’s interview on Wikipedia, and I ended up listening to the full interview because it was truly an amazingly inspirational talk on how open source movement really spurred the creation and expansion of the world’s first collaborative encyclopedia, where everyone can contribute and leave a mark in history. Wales talks about how best businesses are never created by MBAs, but rather led through trial and error by innovation, creativity, and sometimes spontaneous leadership. What later became of Wikipedia, was once called as Nupedia, a free encyclopedia written by a bunch of volunteers. But since the review process was like seven stages (which took extremely long), Wales abandoned the idea but still persisted because he was on a humanitarian mission for creating the world’s largest free encyclopedia. The project was open source, thus, it was never a problem to find activists interested in promoting and writing for the project; it got a lot of people excited and Wiki just grew by word of mouth, which was, in its own right, pretty extraordinary. His goal, Wales said, is to promote Wikipedia in the developing world, making it available for every single person on the planet.
The blog is actually full of great interviews from famous and not at all that much famous but very successful people. The recently featured guests include Eric Bergman from Catena Media, Hiten Shah from FYI, Ovi Negrean from Socialbee, Max Kolysh from Zinc.io. Some of the masterclasses are led by Justin Kan from Twitch, Alvaro Oliveira from Toptal, Steve Sims from Bluefish, Marcus Ho from Social Metric, and others.
Brian Solis is an analyst at Altimeter, an award-winning author, blogger, keynote speaker; he’s also been described as “digital anthropologist and futurist.” Solis’s books include X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, What’s the Future of Business, The End of Business as Usual, and Lifescale: How to live a more creative, productive and happy life. For most of his life, Solis has studied the effect technology has on people and their lives, and how we evolve as human beings around those technologies. He’s helped many brands and celebrities (among them are Oprah and Ashton Kutcher) achieve their goals, transform their lives, and aim for innovation, rather than complacency. Apart from writing, Solis has a video series, called (r)evolution, that looks at technology and best-proven business strategies and principles.
The latest blogs were about the future of marketing, social media, his newest books (Lifescale) and why you should actually care and read it, digital distractions, smartphones, and customers, as well as other topics more or less connected with technology. Let’s look at one of his articles, which particularly grabbed my attention, namely How We Fell to The Dark Side, which deals with the past, present, and future of social media. Brian starts with how social media and ominous online presence has deprived him of the sense of duty and creativity, instead — giving him the shallow callousness of frustration and anger at oneself and his inevitable capitulation to the digital distraction. The ability to communicate naturally, build real relationships, think straight and critically, almost everything was affected by living a distracted, always-on life. Brian actually found the answer to that perplexity, called, “persuasive design,” which happens when developers and marketers make apps or website indispensable to peoples’ lives, sort of like a quintessential mechanism of engagement and self-worth. As soon as Brian realized the nature of his addiction, he was determined to start a path of self-discovery, recovery, and advancement.
To watch his full talk on the issue and things he did to overcome challenges of social media, I recommend spending an entire hour listening to his talk here:
Here’s the blog by Doctor Jeff Cornwall, co-founder of The Entrepreneurial Mind, serial entrepreneur and professor of entrepreneurship. He doesn’t blog often, but when he does, it’s always full of hands-on advice and practical tips on entrepreneurship and innovation. Dr. Cornwall first launched his blog 15 years ago. Since then The Entrepreneurial Mind has undergone four major reincarnations: the first — few years, Cornwall was blogging about what he was teaching, the essentials of entrepreneurship; the second incarnation was writing about how public policy affected entrepreneurs; the third stage was about experimenting with video content; and the last stage, which the blog is currently undergoing, is Dr. Conrwall writing about the state of higher education and how it evolves, transforms, and impacts entrepreneurship. Professor has a bunch of online courses on partnerships, personal finance, startups, and business models. He’s an author of several textbooks, including Entrepreneurial Financial Management. He also wrote books on bootstrapping, building a business from the ground up, as well as recently contributed to the book edited by Jonathan Low, called Secret No More!
Startups.com is a company that’s focused on providing education and tools for aspiring founders to help them through the entire startup process, from business planning to launching and staffing. The company has already advised more than one million startups, gained more than 25 million backers and followers, so the track record is pretty impressive, as you can see. On their expert advice page, the company features dozens and dozens of articles on all possible subjects surrounding startups, from starting, growing, to actually running a company. Part of the articles are educational and the other part — inspirational.
Let’s hop on one of their articles on finding angel investors and see what they have to say there. The post starts with the description and definition of an angel investor, their typical investment profile, and then goes into the greatest details on how to actually search for one. They suggest to start by asking your family and friends, then if that fails — network, pitch someone online (like on a platform), which is, honestly, nothing new here. Then the author spends time explaining what the pitch actually is and how to prepare it, which turns out to be full of very basic advice without any real hands-on experience. So basically, the post was pretty generic, might be even for SEO, but you can check out other articles on the blog and see if you can learn something new. I’m pretty confident there must be something there.
We’ve already talked about Farnam street in our previous blog post on productivity so we won’t dive into great details about who Shane Parrish is and where he’s coming from. So if you’re interested, please read it here: 5 productivity tips or here if you’re particularly interested in Parrish’s figure. Farnam Street is, honestly, one of my favorite blogs, and I plan to join the learning community (paid) in the nearest future, mainly because I really want to be a part of a reading club Shane has, and of course, to gain access to some of the exclusive material, including the transcripts of his ongoing podcasts. Not that I don’t like listening to podcasts, I really do, I am actually a huge fan. If you’re particularly interested in web development podcasts, then I’ve made a bunch of posts on them alone, you can check out the series here: Podcast Series. So, the point here is this: the reason I want to read the transcripts, is that sometimes it’s so much easier to review the written text and go back to the parts you think you’ve missed rather than find a particular place in the recording. What I also like about Parrish’s blog is that when I start reading an article, I can’t just stop and get on Facebook, or Twitter, I actually finish the post and continue onto the next one. Parrish is full of wisdom, practicality, mindfulness, and critical thinking. Since we’re reviewing blogs that would be particularly interesting to business people and entrepreneurs, I’ve picked up three of Parrish’s articles on business and leadership.
As of writing, this is the most recent post on Parrish’s blog. And it’s a genuinely interesting observation about building teams of excellent performers with subtle references to Steve Jobs and his practices. Consider this quote from Steve Jobs, as an example:
“Now, in software, and it used to be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; maybe even 100:1. Very few things in life are like this, but what I was lucky enough to spend my life doing, which is software, is like this. So I’ve built a lot of my success on finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for “B” and “C” players, but really going for the “A” players. And I found something… I found that when you get enough “A” players together, when you go through the incredible work to find these “A” players, they really like working with each other. Because most have never had the chance to do that before. And they don’t work with “B” and “C” players, so it’s self-policing. They only want to hire “A” players. So you build these pockets of “A” players and it just propagates.”
The important part, however, Parrish argues, is not about collecting the best talent, but actually building a team from that talent. He, then, relates a story when he gathered a bunch of PhDs, but it didn’t work out in a sense that he was hoping for: none of it was effectual in delivering actual results. So, the thesis goes like this: “The combination of individual intelligence does not make for group intelligence.” So the solution to building an A team, Parrish says, lies in the ability to get sparked by others, rather than waiting for the spark to come from within. And to get that spark from someone is to build a great team full of people who can inspire each other to do awesome things.
The goal of this article, as stated by Parrish himself is to find and describe “an investment algorithm to lean on hard when it is available: low-risk, long-duration, above-average returns.” There are three main criteria for any investment: it works in all conceivable financial environments, it’s interesting for its user and the user is competent enough to understand the nature of their investment, and investment falls into the moral criteria of its user. Then there’s a sort of like magic seven-element algorithm for equity investment that Parrish proposes, and here it basically is:
- Everyone in the investment relationship wins (everyone’s content including owners, employees, customers, and suppliers)
- Sustainable balance sheet even if it’s with past bad events (which doesn’t necessarily indicate or mean bad events in the future)
- Business is different and hard to match
- Nevertheless, the business should be fully operational
- Look for boring investments
- You should be able to foresee some kind of growth ahead (through market creation, market penetration, and pricing power)
- Attractive price incorporating margin for error
This is the story about the life of Samul Andrews, the guys, whom you probably never heard of, but he was actually John D. Rockefeller’s right-hand man, although not for long. One day, when everything was going pretty good for both Rockefeller and Andrew, the latter snapped: “I wish I was out of this business.” And the way he demanded to be out of the business was to have one million dollars and just be out. The next morning, when Andrew arrived to work, he had it all: one million dollar check. But when Rockefeller sold the shares to William H. Vanderbilt for a quick $300,000 profit, Andrew said he changed his mind. Rockefeller, being an honest man, offered back the stock to Andrew for the same price. But Andrew spurned; which turned out to be his major mistake because the same amount could have been grown to $900 million by 1930s. He didn’t know that at the time, of course, he had this huge ego the size of the Sun, which made him refuse the best deal in his life. Rockefeller would later say that Andrew lost his head, was wicked and full of prejudice. But wait a minute here, Shane argues, there’s this Andrew in all of us. The moral of the story is to keep your head sane while everyone else is losing their mind. Is this hard? Yes, almost impossible. Does the world work the way you want it to? Pretty much, in 10% of the case. Maybe even less. How you respond to circumstances such as these — make a difference. Rockefeller was the only sane person to keep going, to keep his head above water while others were losing their mind. Now think of it, for a minute, are you able to prevent your ego from speaking on your behalf? If not, then you know what to work on.
Neil Patel is one of those famous guys you hear about every conference you attend. He’s a marketing guru, everyone preaches. And honestly, there’s a clear pattern of why he is one of the best marketers of our time. Wait for it. Because he delivers. Because every time he posts, he has a very important thing to say. Because he is almost always to the point. Because he doesn’t give generic advice, but rather something you can act upon immediately. Right now, I urge you quit everything else, and go on that blog and follow his advice, and you’ll see for yourself how your website and (ultimately) your life is going to change for the better. Okay, then, Neil Patel’s blog is mostly about SEO, but at the same time about so much more: marketing, leadership, management, you name it. SEO is not only about ranking higher in Google, but about being persistent, confident, and goal-oriented.
You know what? As soon as I discover other blogs worth a mention, I’ll keep it going, I’ll write about other fascinating people you should follow, I’ll write until you achieve success or find inspiration in other people, which will lead you to discover your own full potential. Keep coming back to find more of those books and blogs you should read and follow.